Startup Cinderellas – successful underdog startups, Part II

Posted on August 4, 2015

Last time we discussed strange, ridiculous startup ideas, which in the end achieved success. We had Rent-a-Chicken, Pet Loo and Ashley Madison dating site (it got hacked pretty recently, by the way).  There are hundreds of weird businesses though and in the article below, I will show you some of the most interesting successful underdog startups. Get ready for pet rocks, personal romance novels, bacon world and some more.


  1. Pet Rock

Garry Ross Dahl – 1970’s Doctor Frankenstein, managed to create a perfect companion. Just imagine – what if you could have a pet, but without having to worry about the mess it makes, your children’s allergies or even taking care of it. Gary Dahl have indeed created a really independent, majestic creature – one, that will always stand (or lay) by your side – Pet Rock.

Where idea like that can be born? Not surprisingly – during a bar talk with friends. Garry used to pack his magical rocks on a fragment of straw in a cardboard box. He of course also remembered to feature breathing holes, so a pet could survive transport.

One of the things that got people’s attention (other than PET ROCK…) was an instruction concerning your pet’s needs, added to every package. As it was saying – “your pet rock will be a devoted friend and companion for many years to come”. One of many Pet Rock’s qualities was also extremely long lifespan.

As crazy as it sounds, Pet Rock was really successful business. One plain, simple rock which could be find anywhere, being sold for 3, 95$? Well, 1,5 million people decided, that it is worth its price. Even though Pet Rock’s fame started to fade with time, it’s still one of the remainders, that you shouldn’t ever underestimate business ideas you came up with in a bar.

Surprisingly, Gary Dahl had moments when he regretted giving Pet Rock life. Legions of wannabe inventors wanted his advice and some of the craziest clients stalked him for years. Mad, mad world.


  1. Your Novel

Have you ever dreamt of becoming a hero of some interesting book? Well, if you are not a celebrity, redeemed gangster or a writer yourself, the chance is it won’t ever happen. But what if there was a chance? Your Novel can make this dream of yours come true.

Well, if you thought that you might become a valiant knight in some breathtaking fantasy novel, it will be a great disappointment for you – Your Novel offers only romance novels (I will understand if some part of the audience will stop reading).

You give them information, choose elements of the story and one of their book themes. In exchange, you get personalized romance novel, telling your story (but in a more flashy/exciting way).

A girl you met at the bar, can become a sophisticated femme fatale, which just can’t resist your charms. Simple vacation might be transformed into a detective story, with a lot of twists and dangers. Possibilities are endless! (I might be exaggerating a little here)

How did Fletcher and Newbern come up with such an idea? Well, as it usually is, friends were involved. During a lunch, they all discussed romance novel, Newbern wanted to publish at the moment. Someone said something like ‘How cool would that be, to read a romance novel about myself…” (and most probably it was a woman).

And that’s how it all started. Fletcher and Newbern immediately started to work on the idea and very soon became rich. If you are interested, pricing below:

  •         ebook, plain: $24.95 (novella) – $39.95 (full book)
  •         ebook, with photo: $49.95 (novella) – $64.95 (full book)
  •         Paperback, plain: $49.95
  •         Paperback, with photo: $74.95
  •         Paperback novella, plain: $24.95
  •         Paperback novella, with photo: $49.95
  •         Hardback, plain: $94.95
  •         Hardback, with photo: $119.95


  1. Bacon, bacon and more bacon

What if I told you, that you could buy a bacon tasting sunscreen, shaving cream or an ice cream? Sounds disgusting (not for everyone as we will learn) and ridiculous. J&D Foods thought different and gave birth to an only-bacon food company (which later also invaded other areas of life).

The idea was simple, bacon is one of the most loved foods in the world (or at least in America), why not give people more of it? Justin and Dave (J&D) decided, that they will become bacon kings of the universe and then succeeded in doing so.

It all started with a jar of bacon-flavored salt. J&D didn’t even have to invest in marketing, people started to buy this bacon miracle without blink of an eye. Later we had bacon flavored mayonnaise, bacon dressing, bacon ice-cream and many others. Then came time for bacon condoms, shaving creams and so on.

Who knows where they will go next? As some reliable American researchers say – “Theoretically everything can be mixed with bacon!” Sounds scary? Yes, it does. But if you are still interested, feel free to visit bacon kingdom.


  1. Anger room!

Last interesting startup we are going to discuss is simply called – Anger Room. What would that be…? There is no surprise here, it’s a room, where you can destroy everything – literally. Idea behind it – sometimes everybody just wants to break something.

You pick your weapon (Anger Room bets on classics like golf clubs, baseball bats etc.) and go into a room full of furniture (junk furniture to be exact). There are tv’s, sofas, chairs and so on, ready to be destroyed by you.

There are 3 anger packages –

  •         I need a break – 5 minutes – 25$
  •         Lash out – 15 minutes – 45$
  •         Total demolition – 25 minutes – 75$


Some of those ideas were plain ridiculous (Pet Rock), some disturbing (bacon kings), some sweet/strange (your novel) and some funny-weird kind (Anger Room), all they have in common is – they didn’t sound like great businesses at start. The conclusion is simple – don’t give up on your dreams, even if they consist of producing pet rocks or bacon flavored shaving creams.

If you know any other interesting, weird businesses, please put them in comments section. You might also be interested in reading the first part of Startup Cinderellas or the piece on great startups that went wrong.

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Piotr Maksymowicz

Content Marketing Specialist